Simplify, simplify, simplify …

“Lately I’ve been feeling I don’t need so many things. I must: simplify, simplify, simplify. Then I thought if I were really into simplifying, I wouldn’t say simplify three times. I’d say simplify. Or “simp.”—Karen Salmansohn

“To do nothing and have it count for something.”—Regina Brett

It all kicked off with some kitchen utensils. To be exact, it was a melon baller followed by three soup ladles, two whisks, two pie serving knives, three spork-type spoons I can’t explain, a spatula, four wooden spoons, and a colander spoon. Having been rescued from the depths of my kitchen drawer, they will find new homes, but more importantly, not be in mine.

These items and more like them have become instruments of stress. Every­where I turn, there’s too much of too much. It only took many months of repeatedly pulling that drawer open, cussing the mess, then slamming it shut to finally clean it out.

My frustration, symbolized by a never-once-used melon baller, was whittled down to a simple truth: more stuff equals more stress.

A quote from writer Karen Salmansohn helped me begin to get a grip. She said, “Stop bringing things into your home, unless you know they will help you to create the feeling in your home that you truly want.”

A quote from designer Brian Gardner helped me get serious about it. He said, “I’ve learned that minimalism is not about what you own, it’s about why you own it.”

Stuff is easy to accumulate but hard to let go. What kind of madness causes us to stack things on top of other things in rooms that we rarely use? Rooms that are basically there to provide walls to line with clutter?

I just parted with a wooden cabinet that, in my previous house, had been prominent in the center of my kitchen. But in this house, it became one of those things pushed up against a basement wall, sitting unused, serving no purpose other than being a flat surface to set an extension cord.

An article on the website Motherly stated those who have a lot of “stuff” in their houses feel less happy in the relationships, have difficulty managing every day tasks, feel less effective, have a harder time transitioning from work to home, feel more fatigue and have a higher level of the stress hormone, cortisol.

So, that’s bad.

Maybe this isn’t true for all people, but I can relate to these findings. Stuff is simply stressful. The more clothes you have, the more often the washer and dryer run. The more dishes you own, the more dirty dishes there are in the sink (or in fantasy land, the dishwasher, where you might continually remind people to put them. But, I digress.)

The article went on to say that we hold onto many things based on hope. Exercise equipment in hopes we get in better shape. Books in hope we will read more of them. Craft items in hope we will make more projects.

They added, “But when we don’t (do these things), it’s hard not to feel like a failure about it…how many items do you need to hold onto before it starts controlling your life?”

Wouldn’t it be quicker and more satisfying to feel like a failure for actually trying and failing instead of feeling like a failure for one day, possibly trying?

The more I read on this subject, the easier it’s becoming to collect and toss. There’s advice and strategies to match any level of….let’s call it…collecting. I’m proud to say I’ve even cleaned off my bookshelf, bagging up books that don’t stir up some kind of emotion when I run my fingers across the covers. (Some of you get that, right?) That was my big test and I like to think I passed.

I have a way to go in this process but for now, I know I’ll get along just fine with a slightly spacier bookshelf and one soup ladle.

And zero melon ballers.

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ven­tures. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofree­press.com.